The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC is celebrating a birthday.  As part of the celebration the museum’s education department has a “Sketching is Seeing” program going until April 24th.  Visitors to the gallery can get a free notebook and pencil — pencils are courtesy of Faber-Castell company — and the Gallery is encouraging visitors to enjoy the art they see by making drawings of their own.  You don’t have to be an artist.  Just draw.  I got my free notebook and made a couple sketches  yesterday while I was there.

It’s a big planet and not everybody can come to the museum for the party.  But part of how the museum has changed over time includes this thing called the internet. Many paintings, drawings and sculptures in the museum’s collection are available to see on the museum website.  So even if you can’t be in Washington, you can still make drawings wherever you are and can post them on social media using the hashtag #NGAsketch.

That’s what I’ve done regarding the drawing above.  Using the website zoom tool while looking at Fragonard’s “Young Girl Reading,” I made this drawing.  At home I have the pencil, notebook and a flexible erasure.  Given the tonal character of Fragonard’s image, I find it helpful to smudge the graphite and pull out some of the lights.  Next time I visit the Gallery, if I want to draw Fragonard’s girl again, this drawing I made at home will help me better understand the image.  Think of this as a rehearsal.

If you’re near DC, come visit the museum in person.  The Education Department has some nifty displays set up in the Information room (that’s where you get your free notebook and pencil) — and these displays are themselves really fun.  Currently they’ve replicated a Harnett trompe l’oeil painting so that you can draw a still life set up rather similar (in a theatrical sort of way) to what Harnett might have been looking at.  Now doesn’t that sound like fun.

So go to the party in Washington, if you can make it.  Or if you’re far away, join the party from your internet location. And just draw!


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